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Donald Trump Warns Against Voting For Don Blankenship; Interview With Sen. Ed Markey. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired May 8, 2018 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] CHRIS CILIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: One of the main foils to Donald Trump, as a Democrat, is not the worst thing in the world politically speaking. You know, the problem is you have this sort of monster in private life, as described by Ronan Farrow and the women he spoke to.

But I think those cases go on. I do think there was some level of spiking of the football that's a little bit unsavory there. Understand the natural human reaction that when someone who has said "No one is above the rule of law and that includes you, Donald Trump," as Eric Schneiderman tweeted in October 2017.

I understand the desire in some ways to say, "Ha ha, look at you now." But again, let's remember, and we always -- it's hard to, in these situations when the politician's the high profile person. But let's remember why Eric Schneiderman is in office; because of the way that he treated women that he was involved with, and a woman he wasn't involved with.

And that's the thing I wish we could just say, this is a bad thing societally, whether it's Eric Schneiderman, who's a Democrat, whether it's Eric Greitens, the Governor of Missouri who's been accused of some allegation of bribe, blackmail, sexual misconduct, and remains of it (ph), this is bad, period.

Let's not take joy in anyone's downfall. Because ultimately you're taking joy in the fact that this person engaged in violent behavior with women. And no one wants to celebrate that.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: But, it is -- in that regard and in the very political sense, it's -- people don't silo things, right? I mean you've got Democrats who will say this is more a Republican problem, because a lot of Democrats were carrying the Me Too mantle against Trump and Republicans. And Republicans now can say, "Oh really?"

CILLIZZA: Yes, that's true. And look, Rubin Kihuen in Nevada, John Conyers in Michigan, there are examples. Megan Barry in Nashville -- the Mayor of Nashville. There are certainly Democrats that -- Al Franken resigned his office amid allegations of --


CILLIZZA: -- groping and forcible kissing. Again, you are exactly right, Kate, that there is -- there is a tendency to tabulate; to be there's this -- we got these eight versus these five.

I'm a political reporter. I get it. There's political scoring that goes on. I just, as a human, I wish that we did less of that and we could say, "Look there's -- let's say there's 8 over here and 10 over there, that's 18 people who are acting in ways that we don't societally accept."


CILLIZZA: It doesn't matter if they're a Republican or a Democrat.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: And I think a lot of people would like to see more women taking these jobs, all right? Barbara Underwood --


STELTER: -- is now taking over on an acting basis for Schneiderman. Who was it in Al Franken's case? A woman took over in that position.


STELTER: Maybe that's one of the outcomes of this Me Too movement.

CILLIZZA: And by the way, to Brian's point, you are seeing -- just to Brian's point, you are seeing more women than ever -- than we have ever historically seen running for office up and down the valley in 2018.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you guys. Thanks so much.

STELTER: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next, a fresh -- a fresh vote of confidence from President Trump. But is it enough to get his pick for the next CIA Director Over the finish line with a contentious confirmation hearing on the horizon? We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: President's Trump's pick to lead the CIA returns to Capital Hill today; Gina Haspel is trying to gather support and of her confirmation hearing tomorrow likely to be a contentious one.

She's the current deputy director of the CIA and is facing stiff opposition from democrats who say she is not doing enough to come clean on her record. Many questions surround Haspel's role in Bush area enhanced integration tactics.

President Trump is having none of it though. Coming straight to her defense tweeting this today, she has been and always will be tough on terror.

Joining me right now from Capitol Hill a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee democratic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Senator thanks for coming in.

SEN. ED MARKEY, D-MA.: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: You oppose Gina Haspel's nomination because of her role in the Bush area interrogation tactics. Why not be open to hearing what she has to say though?

MARKEY: Well, you know the president himself has basically said he supports taught (ph) torture as a method of getting information about those who we have captured.

And Gina Haspel was actually in charge of the program in Thailand where the United States sent people who we had captured -- Al Qaeda people who had been in our possession and sent them to Thailand where enhanced interrogation techniques were used against those prisoners, and Gina Haspel then subsequently oversaw the destruction of more than 90 tapes of which were taken of the enhanced interrogation or torture of those prisoners.

So, I just think that for the United States to nominate someone to run the CIA who has engaged herself in conduct which is barbaric, which is inhumane, and which has been proven to be ineffective, is just the wrong signal to be sending to the rest of the world that the United State is no longer the moral of leader that the rest of the world can depend upon.

BOLDUAN: But Senator, key word here, legal. It was legal at the time. If she sits down tomorrow and says "I was following techniques that were legal at the time, techniques that are now illegal, and that I would never use again," would that be enough for you?

MARKEY: No, it would not be. And it's clearly not enough for Senator John McCain; he has came out against her nomination. That's clearly not enough for Rand Paul. I think this is a very tough nomination.

I think that this type of interrogation is such that it calls him to question whether or not she is the right person to run the CIA. And in my opinion, she is not.

We have to move on, we have to move to a new era here where the person who is running this agency does understand that there are rules, that there are standards, that there are moral goals that our country must have and that if in the past, this individual has not met those higher standards, then she should not be allowed to run this incredibly important American agency.


BOLDUAN: Let me, let's see what happens with her hearing tomorrow. Senator let me also ask you about this, sources tell CNN the president is likely to no longer in a big announcement today, no longer waive sanctions on Iran, a first step to withdrawing from the Iran Nuclear Deal. If he says that - - if he says that - - if he says that, but also says that he would like to try to negotiate a better deal now, will you stand with him and try?

MARKEY: The Iran Nuclear Deal is working, the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency has made clear that they have found no violations. If the president wants to deal with the Iranian ballistic missile program or their military intervention in Yemen or other countries, he should come to the Democrats and work with us. He already has the sanctions authority to be able to deal with those issues; if he needs additional authority, he should come to Democrats, but you don't have to burn down the house in order to remodel the kitchen. You don't have to destroy a deal which is already working that ensures that there is no active nuclear weapons program going on in Iran in order to deal with these other issues, we can deal with the other issues separately.

BOLDUAN: But regardless of if he's burning down the kitchen if he's just renovating the kitchen or burning down the whole house, if the whole house burns down you still need to rebuild it if you want somewhere to live, to try and continue the metaphor. So if he burns down the house, do you feel a responsibility especially in your role in the Foreign Relations Committee to try to help him to reach some new deal with Iran?

MARKEY: Well he will have jeopardized our relationship with our European allies; the British, the French, the Germans, they all oppose him pulling out. He will have empowered, emboldened the most radical elements inside of Iran who never liked the deal in the first place. And so of course I will work on a bipartisan basis where necessary, but the president is engaging in a reckless act, destroying a treaty --

BOLDUAN: Senator --

MARKEY: -- which works and substituting no new pathway towards achieving this larger goal of ensuring there is no nuclear weapons program in Iran.

BOLDUAN: Just a real quick question, do you see him being able to kind of do a half measure, a half way pull out in an announcement today or do you think if he announces anything with regard to no longer waiving sanctions, the deal is dead?

MARKEY: I think that the deal will be fundamentally crippled if he pulls out. We need the United States and all of our partners in order to ensure that the deal is reached. If Iran is in a situation where it has no working relationship with us and the right-wingers in that country are moving forward, then I just think it's going to create a very problematic environment in the Middle East that the Saudi Arabians will be looking at because they want nuclear weapons as well. I just think that the problems this creates are so much larger than any solution which he says he wants where Democrats are saying they're willing to work with him; ballistic missiles, Yemen, human rights come to us Mr. President, we will partner with you on those issues.

BOLDUAN: Senator Ed Markey, thank you Senator. MARKEY: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, West Virginia, you are on the clock, it's primary day there and in three other states on a very important day. So who's Trumpier than Trump? Is that exactly what today's elections will hang on? We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the Trumpiest (ph) of them all? Voters in the four states hit the polls today in the first multi-state primary of the 2018 midterms. Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, West Virginia, all states President Trump won in 2016, some by huge margins, as he would say.

In West Virginia, Trump beat Hilary Clinton by 40 plus points. You would think, then, being Trumpy (ph) would be a slam dunk there, but irony of ironies, the president is rejecting a republican senate candidate who claims to be Trumpier (ph) than Trump himself.

We're talking Don Blankenship of course, the ex-coal executive and ex- convict. The president's advice there, tweeting, "Remember Alabama, reminding voters how another controversial republican, Roy Moore lost the senate race in Alabama, turning a red seat blue."

This morning, Blankenship basically said, "Yeah, I remember Alabama, and how you, Mr. Trump supported Roy Moore."


DON BLANKENSHIP, WEST VIRGINIA SENATE CANDIDATE: Again, we all really like President Trump's policies but we know that he doesn't get things right. I mean, he recommended that people vote for a guy that was, basically, accused of pedophilia in Alabama.


BOLDUAN: Oh, memories. Joining me now, CNN political commentator and Hilary Clinton's former campaign manager, Robby Mook and republican strategist and former chief of staff to Senator Mitch McConnell, Josh Holmes. Great to see you guys.

Josh, you have made no secret of your distaste for West Virginia senate candidate Don Blankenship, to say the least. Of course, as you have attacked your former pretty brutally, do you think President Trump, though, helped or hurt when he didn't endorse a candidate, he just said, don't vote for Blankenship?

JOSH HOLMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think he helps measurably by pointing out to voters that Don Blankenship can't win a general election.

[11:50:00] I mean, ultimately if you care a lick about the Trump agenda or Supreme Court Justices, or all the regulatory reform, or all the things that actually this Republican Congress has been able to do, like generational tax reform, you probably shouldn't back candidates that have absolutely no chance of becoming United States Senators.

I think the difference in this circumstance and why it actually will have -- or could have a significant impact is because we have a body of evidence. At this point, you look back at Alabama and President Trump made a very similar warning, and five months later we found out he was absolutely right; Roy Moore, who lost the reddest state in the Nation unbelievably, as a result of being an absolute terrible candidate.

BOLDUAN: Right, but remember there was -- there was a quick thing happened within there; then Trump basically endorsed Ray Moore in the midst of that. We'll get to that in one second, Joshua.

Robby, Manchin -- Joe Manchin, the Democrat of course, the Senator in West Virginia; he has an uphill battle no matter who he faces, post this Republican primary.

I assume you were hoping and praying then, that Don Blankenship wins?

ROBBY MOOK, FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER, HILLARY FOR AMERICA: Well, I think -- I think the Republicans are right to be scared. But I think Don Blankenship is just the most extreme manifestation of where this party is going.

I mean, at the end of the day, the argument against Blankenship, aside from the incredibly offensive comments he's made, and so on, is that this is a person -- you know, we just heard Josh talking about deregulation. This is a person who -- who built mines that weren't safe, and workers died as a result. And he went to prison because of that.

And ultimately, the Republican agenda is trying to strip away some of these protections. So I think Democrats are going to have a case to make no matter what. But Blankenship is obviously the worst possible person the Republicans could put forward.

BOLDUAN: Josh, what does Mitch McConnell do? Forget about Donald Trump. What does Mitch McConnell do, once again, the guy he doesn't want to get the nomination gets the nomination, if that happens?

HOLMES: Well, I mean, look, I'm not speaking for McConnell. I'll let him speak for himself and whatever the election results are tonight.

But I will say, to Robby's point about Democrats not wishing and hoping for a particular candidate, I think it's worth noting that Democrats have actually spent $1.3 million more than any other super PAC in this race in the attempt to get Blankenship elected in this primary.

So look, they certainly see him as the weakest candidate. If I'm a voter out there and I'm taking a gander and seeing that liberal Democrats in Washington, D.C. are actually supporting a candidate in the Republican primary, I'm pretty wary about that. And so I think West Virginians should take a hard look at that before they go to the ballot booth today.

BOLDUAN: Robby, crystal ball moment; what is -- yes, you knew it was coming -- what do you think is the headline coming off this big primary day? What's the big headline coming off of it tomorrow?

MOOK: Yes, I mean if Blankenship is out there, I think we're going to be talking about a Senate race that the Republicans are potentially letting slip away. But, I mean Joe Manchin's going to be -- I believe he can win no matter what. Because I believe he has a special standing in the race.

I don't know. My honest crystal ball is I don't think there's going to be a lot of news. I think, you know, Ohio, I think Rich Cordray is likely to win there.

BOLDUAN: So the establishment wins over the Bernie Sanders?

MOOK: Actually, I wouldn't call Rich Cordray establishment. I would say that --

BOLDUAN: You don't want to, that's for sure.

MOOK: -- I would say that -- I would just say that Dennis Kucinich is a weak candidate and is running a really bad campaign. I mean empirically so. And I think Rich Cordray is running a good one. I think he represents the kind of candidate that Democrats want right now.

So I'm -- I don't see any big headlines. But you know, we'll see.

BOLDUAN: He's clearly not a news producer, Josh. No big headlines.

HOLMES: Come on, take a risk.

BOLDUAN: What's your crystal ball in the headlines tomorrow, Josh?

HOLMES: Well, I mean there's another race in Indiana, which has not gotten as much attention that might as well touch on that.

You've got three candidates; two members of Congress and a businessman named Mike Braun. I think Republicans are in good shape there no matter who of the three win, and have a -- I think that race is probably number one on the most likely to flip with Senator Donnelly in the Democratic position.

So look, I think Republicans are in good shape provided that Don Blankenship doesn't win in West Virginia; but if he does, it takes a state that should be one or two on the target list and drops it off the list altogether.

BOLDUAN: Provided -- I have never emphasized, or heard someone emphasize that word so much before.

Great to see you guys. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Coming up for us; another day, another Scott Pruitt scandal, if you can believe it; new details about the -- new details about the ever so embattled EPA Secretary. The question, though, remains the same.

Facing at least 11 investigations by the -- by the inspector general of the department, why does President Trump keep Scott Pruitt in the job?

I'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: New documents and new details and none of it helpful to the embattled head of the EPA Scott Pruitt. The latest of his many legal and ethical scandals involves his first class travel on the tax payer dime. CNN Sara Ganim's in Washington has all the details on this. Sara, what are you learning?

SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT Well, republicans on the House Oversight Committee are coming through 1,700 pages of EPA documents related to their investigation of Scott Pruitt. But we are learning the one thing that was not turned over was permission required by law for Pruitt to fly first class for each and trip, the EPA says he had it, but the documents simply do not back it up. Instead there was just one request in May of 2017. It simply says we have absorbed increase awareness and at times lashing out from passengers. And sitting in coach could endanger his life because he is not easily accessible by his security team. A second memo granting permission says that upgraded travel is allowed, but also sites a federal statute that clearly states the justification must be prepared before every trip.

All this comes as 24,000 pages of additional documents were released by an advocacy group called the Ciara Club (ph). As we go through them, the New York Times has found that it was actually Pruitt's desire to be shielded from the public that was driving this secrecy and not the security concerns as we ad previously known, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Much more to come. Sara, thank you so much. And thank you all so much for joining me. At this hour Inside Politics with John King starts now.